Start Worrying: Trump Sees New Surge of Support After Paris Attacks
It's no surprise that a political problem like terrorism, driven primarily by fear, would be a boost to a candidate whose entire campaign is defined by it. As we've known for several months, Trump polls better on national security (depending on how the question is framed) than any of the other GOP candidates. The latest polls, taken in the days after the devastating attacks in Paris, appear to show a surge for Trump driven largely by alarm over terrorism.
The ultimate demagogue has been given the perfect opportunity to demagogue.
Trump has seen a bump not just in overall polls, but in polls specifically about protecting Americans from terror attacks. He's gained a 20 percentage point lead over his two closest rivals: "none of the above" and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
In a Reuters poll on Tuesday that asked Republican voters which candidate was best suited to deal with terrorism, 36 percent said Donald Trump. The second most popular response was “none,” at 17 percent, followed by Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at just under 17%.
Trump's polling numbers, in general, are also up by significant margins. He has a commanding 27% to Rubio's 13% in New Hampshire, and a Florida Atlantic University poll shows Trump ahead of Rubio by 18 percentage points in the Sunshine State despite it being Rubio's home state.
The GOP's anti-refugee sentiment in the wake of the Paris attacks also plays right into Trump's wheelhouse. The New York billionaire has made nativist—and sometimes outright fascist—sentiment a trademark of his campaign. He has garnered support among a cross-section of white nationalists and recently tweeted out an anti-refugee comment that reads like anti-Semitic agitprop from the 1930s. Put another way: the Paris attacks play right into Trump's greatest strengths, white nativism and paranoia.
The next debate is almost a month away and with the holidays coming up, Trump's position on top seems relatively secure heading into early 2016. Will the fever pitch of anti-refugee sentiment that fuels Trump last that long? It's impossible to know, but what seems increasingly clear is that as long as the politics of fear are driving the national conversation, it can only help Trump.